Florida State Rep. Calls on Gov. DeSantis to Divest From Big Tech Over Censorship

By Masooma Haq

Rep. Randy Fine (R-Fla.) is calling on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to divest from Big Tech companies after the tech giants suspended President Donald Trump’s social media accounts and shut down the Parler platform, citing a breach in their “inciting violence” policy related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“I write today to ask that you order the immediate divestment of any Florida-held equity and debt of the following companies: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Alphabet (Google),” said Fine in his letter to the Florida Cabinet members.

Following President Donald Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, during which he asked protesters to “peaceful and patriotically make your voices heard,” thousands moved to protest around the Capitol building. A part of the protest group became violent and some people breached the Capitol, resulting in the deaths of 5 people.

After the breach, Facebook and Twitter permanently suspended President Trump’s accounts, citing a breach in their policy against violence.

Twitter said banning Trump was a preemptive measure, “we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Meanwhile, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company believes that “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Adding that the block on Trump’s account would continue “for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Fine said that the attack on the Capital was the saddest day of his life, writing, “These terrorists defiled a sacred temple of democracy, and in my mind, there is no penalty too severe for them.”

Fine continued, “I say this because those terrorists do not define me. They do not define you. They do not define my colleagues. And they do not define conservatives.”

“I am deeply disturbed to see the country’s major technology companies use the actions of these few as a pretext to silence tens of millions of good, patriotic Americans, millions of whom live here in Florida,” Fine wrote.

The 53 district’s representative said regardless of if we agree or disagree with what the president writes, he is the president and if Big Tech can censor him, they can censor anyone. The Florida Rep. criticized the fact that world leaders from Iran and elsewhere are allowed to remain active on Twitter despite outrageous and violent statements.

“It is clear that Twitter and Facebook are engaged in one-sided viewpoint discrimination on targeting conservatives. These companies allow actual terrorists around the world to use their platforms to target America, Americans, and our allies, without as much as a peep.”

He said it’s apparent that Amazon, Apple, and Google are trying to eliminate any alternative platforms where conservatives can speak.

Parler, an alternative to Twitter promoted by many conservatives which calls itself “unbiased social media,” was kicked off the internet last week. Amazon and Google told Parler they must moderate their users and control violent posts.

The Republican said he will also be introducing legislation that would forbid any state or local government from doing business with these companies, including no advertising with Facebook, Twitter, or Google by the Florida government, no use of Amazon services, and no purchase of Apple products.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, in response to Fine’s proposal, said, “We should consider getting this on the next Cabinet agenda. Big-tech coordinated to shut down conservative accounts but still allows [Venezuelan leader] Nicolás Maduro to spread lies.”

In an email obtained by the New York Post, Amazon explained the move against Parler, writing, “Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms. It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS (Amazon web services) terms of service. [W]e cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is seen on a screen as he testifies before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on “Online Platforms and Market Power” in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/File Photo/Pool via Reuters)

Prior to that, Google said, “Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety,” the company said in a statement. “We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.”

In a letter sent to Parler’s developers, Apple wrote, “Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”

“We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we have many competing for our business, however Amazon, Google, and Apple purposefully did this as a coordinated effort knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies,” Parler CEO John Matze said in a statement Jan. 9.

Fine called the moves by the tech giants censorship. Concluding his letter to the governor by saying, “They may get to decide who they do business with. So, do we.”

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